After Dark: Fishing for Compliments

On the banks of the Danube Canal, Die Grelle Forelle wants with-it hipsters, not VIP-listers

On The Town | Cristina Rotaru | March 2012

Attracted by its low-key profile, night crawlers are increasingly heading to Vienna’s latest underground hub in search of an uncensored, no-strings-attached time.

Unlike a regular nightclub that thrives on publicity, Die Grelle Forelle (The Dazzling Trout) is best served in sworn secrecy. And that for good reason:  Since its inauguration last November, it promises mutiny of the mind and deviant behaviour like no other joint in the city – and asks only for discretion in return.

Finding the location required thorough a priori research, a dedicated cab driver and possible fence jumping. The entrance outside, marked solely by a simplistic linear symbol of a fish over a graffiti wall on the river docks, seems unkempt at first glance. Later, I found little fish graffiti all over town, another clever PR tactic.

In fact, the whole concept is cleverly anti-elitist, which in a way masks the same sort of pretension that comes with being part of the Viennese glitterati. There is no possibility of a reservation, no phone number or guest list or any other way of cutting the line. Imposing a strict 21 and over age limit and a categorical no-photo policy (for all of our sakes, I concluded), the place’s reputation is confined to word of mouth and only functions on a first-come-first-serve basis.

The line of long naked legs outside the entrance shortly before midnight in the middle of February seemed to have missed the memo. "Sorry girls, you’re just going to have to wait," the bouncer lashed at a group of loud and eager fashionistas flickering in anticipation of the craze to come.

The lush interior spread over two dance floors, spacious, loud and blurry, was perfectly reminiscent of the sort of East Berlin flare that put Central Europe on the clubbing map back in the 80s. Dark leather sofas contrasted with a massive bright red bar, whimsical down-tempo and minimal DJs, private dark corners and open moving space – it had everything a successful club needs. The only difference was the music: much more underground, almost a FLEX 3.0. The public seemed utterly bored.

Trapped among Vienna’s yuppies hiding from their parents’ expectations, behind braces and neon-bright hats, I was more than poised for the announced decadence of the "Sparkles Party" and decided to get a drink.

Then I found out that the use of a credit card was conditioned by a minimal purchase of €50.

"How many Gin and Tonics for €50?" I asked with a newly found confidence that I had probably picked up somewhere in the room, and that was far in excess of my resources.

The barman – overly aware of his ambiguous sexuality and grinning away in a slightly provocative pose – was deeply in character. "You’re getting a bottle of Bombay instead," he commanded and then whispered steadily into my ear, leaning across the bar in one breath: "This way you get your money’s worth… and more…"

Perhaps because I just couldn’t resist that V-neck bundle of flexed muscle and hair gel, but mostly because I needed a drink, I indulged him.

But the party never came. Throughout the night, people were there to dwindle away the wee hours with their entourage and complain about boyfriends over overpriced cocktails. They weren’t there to lose their minds dancing to the shrill tempo of the techno beats they so claim to love.

This idea is new to the city, but if the crowd isn’t ready, the undercover act may not fly.


Die Grelle Forelle,

Fri. & Sat., 23:00-6:00

9., Spittelauer Lände 12

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